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What Dating Sites Can Teach Us About Interviewing

Online_dating.jpgIn the recent Wired magazine there was an interesting article by Elise Craig titled “Not OK, Cupid: Niche Dating Apps Are Proving Icky and Bad For Love”.  In the article she writes about how dating sites have gone from a general community (the early versions of Match.com circa 1995) to the plethora of niche sites available today (more about this later).

An interesting insight was revealed later in the article where the author points out that the niche sites are ineffective because they simply match singles up with mirror versions of themselves. It turns out that this does not lead to more successful relationships. The opposite is closer to the truth.

This led us to think about how this applies to the mistakes that commonly take place in interviewing.

First, let’s talk about dating. 

In the beginning Match.com was the trailblazer who brought the concept of singles being able to find their significant other online. As Elise Craig puts it:

“… You picked an age range, sure, and height requirements, fine, but your options expanded.

Thanks to the all-inclusive power of the Internet, you were scrolling through goths and triathletes and electricians and investment bankers and chefs, and suddenly it didn't seem so crazy to start trading emails with someone who rooted for the wrong sports team or even lived across the country.

These people didn't go to your college, and they didn't know your friends (or your mom). But 20 years later, that diverse pool of potential daters hasn't grown broader and deeper--it's been subdivided into stupidly specific zones”.

In those early days people could find potential dates that shared the same interests and they could also discover someone who was interesting yet different from you.

Fast forward to the present and we now see a plethora of niche dating apps micro-targeted to specific groups. Some of the sites listed in the article are:

  • Luxy (Tinder, minus the poor people)
  • Bristlr (targeted site for people – I assume men – with beards)
  • Tall People Meet (you need to be 6”4” or above – count me out)
  • Veggiemate (uniting singles with a real passion for eating their greens)
  • My420Mate (Uniting singles who have a love of weed – seriously)

What Elise Craig points out though is that there was an OK Cupid analysis that showed that matching on singular interests did not lead to more successful relationships. The three questions that they did find to the highest level of compatibility where:

  • Would you ditch it all to go live on a sailboat?
  • .Do you like scary movies?
  • Have you ever traveled to a foreign country alone?

The interesting observation from this is that levels of adventurism were better predictors of compatibility than sharing an interest in politics or sports. 

When will we bring this around to talk about how it relates to interviewing? Please be patient.

Another 2015 study referenced in the article pointed out the problem with niche sites this way:

“In love, the researchers wrote, people have long looked for their other half: now it seems that we are rather looking for our double, as if reflected in a mirror”

This dilemma – choosing to complete ourselves versus copying ourselves – is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations when they are interviewing for potential candidates.

Selecting candidates that are all mirror images of their manager will lead to group think, a lack of diverse thought and blind spots.

Talent development, like dating, may be better off if the goal is to find the people who will complete the organization and help it balance itself with a broad collection of skills, interests and backgrounds.

What are the pitfalls that can happen when interviewing and hiring is done to look for mirror images of the manager:

  • Diversity hiring will be stifled.
  • Age bias can happen.
  • Personality styles will be overlooked - the world is not all run by extroverts
  • An organization will be overloaded with everyone wanting to be the quarterback and no one left to be on the offensive line.